**Trigger : pregnancy / baby after loss**
This time last year I was about four months pregnant with Iola. On the outside, I was a pregnant woman with a blossoming bump and a future that was about to be changed in the most wonderful of ways. But on the inside, I would go to bed each night praying that my baby wouldn’t die like her sister. I would wake with a start each morning and lie with my hand pressed against my stomach, holding my breath until I’d felt the smallest of movements. I would go to scans already planning in my head what post mortem options I would pick if the doctor were to tell me that he couldn’t find a heartbeat.
Yes, I was pregnant.
But that didn’t neccessarily mean that I would get to take my baby home.
Pregnancy after loss left me with alot of anxiety and guilt. Anxiety because I felt like I was constantly on edge, waiting for history to repeat itself. And guilt because I felt like I should be enjoying the experience. Guilt at knowing others are unable to even be in my postition after loss or even at all, and I was sitting on my bed crying and willing each day to pass so I could drag myself another day closer to my due date.
And I told myself that once my beautiful Iola was here that that anxiety, all of that emotion would somehow find a way to release itself and to an extent, leave me the hell alone.
I knew even before I was told by various people that pregnancy after loss (PAL) would be hard and full of its own challenges.
But I’d never really questioned how parenting after loss would be full of varying challenges too . . .
I am grateful that Ieuan, my firstborn came without complications, fear or worry and I was able to enjoy his pregnancy and his childhood with only the normal worries that new parents experience on a daily basis.
But Iola? She came after loss. And I only have to look through the diaries I kept when Ieuan was a baby to realise that Evalyn’s loss between my two living children has had a huge impact on the way I parent Iola.
“You know she’ll be fine,” Nick said to me the other night when we put Iola down without being swaddled.
I looked at him with a frown and gave a small shrug. “I know.”
But inside my head was saying the opposite. What if she doesn’t sleep and just screams and sets off those triggers? Or worse, what is she rolls over and can’t move her head to breathe properly? (which she can! I KNOW that). What if she’s too uncomfortable? What if she moves in the night and gets a limb stuck somewhere and can’t get herself out of it? What if? What if? WHAT IF?
So, we put her down. She slept soundly for a whole 6 hours the first time we did it whilst I checked in on her at least 30 times before I finally fell asleep three hours later, exhausted. Rewind to 6 years ago when we did the same with Ieuan and I went to bed that night without a worry in the world and I’m starting to realise that parenting after loss is making me a bit neurotic.
It’s easy for people outside of the “loss bubble” to see parents with their ‘rainbow’ baby and assume that somehow they are fixed. They got their baby. But we’re not fixed. Life blessed us with another baby, but we are still without a child. And for me, that loss has impacted greatly the past 7 months since Iola was placed screaming and healthy into my arms.
I love her. I love her more than I ever thought I would. I look at her and feel so incredibly blessed. But she reminds me of Evalyn. She reminds me of who Evalyn could have been or who she could have become. She laughs and I think of how Evalyn’s laugh would’ve sounded. She smiles and I look into her eyes and wonder if Evalyn’s would have been the same shade of blue. In a way, she highlights my grief for her sister. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know that I would always have to have one of my girls without the other. Loving Iola heightens my love for Evalyn. But My God, it makes me miss her on a whole new level that initial baby loss and pregnancy after loss didn’t neccessarily show me. There has been more than one occasion when either myself, a family member or friend has accidently called Iola by her sister’s name. And I’m sure I’m not the only parent after loss who has done this.
I’m definitely more protective of her. I definitely worry more. Constantly worry. And the thoughts that accompany my worries are far darker than the thoughts I ever had when Ieuan was the same age. The anxiety I know I have since losing Evalyn has filtered it’s way into my parenting of Iola. How could it not? Those feelings don’t go away. Iola didn’t arrive with a magic eraser ready to take away the pain that Evalyn left behind.
A ‘rainbow’ baby doesn’t fix loss. Does it make it easier to deal with loss like so many people would and do pressume? Honestly, I don’t think it does. That is only my opinion. But how could it? I have Iola who makes every day a blessing to wake up to.
But I still grieve for Evalyn.
I still cry for her.
I still miss her more than my words could ever accurately describe.
I still have her scars on my body.
Her birthday will still pass every year without her being here with us. . . . .
But I will enjoy her sister and what she brings to our lives. I will parent her and probably love her even more fiercely due to the experiences and grief that life placed in my path. And I’ll probably worry so much more than I need to. I’ll worry through her first year, her toddler years, her childhood years – probably even more so in her teenage years when I start to lose more control as she gains her independence. We’ll probably even argue because my own neurotic behaviour wants to keep her close to me forever – you can thank your sister for that, Iola!!
Because, to summarise, I guess parenting a ‘rainbow’ baby can be described in a few words.
And a bucketful of worry – I say whislt drenching Iola in her 8th coat of SPF50 before heading out into the Great British Heatwave of 2018!